Once upon today. . . . we went to visit an orphanage.
Well, it isn’t really an orphanage. But it’s a little clunky to say “once upon a time we went to visit a program for former street children who have been invited off the streets and are now short-term residents, during which time trained volunteers will attempt reconciliation and reintegration of the child with their family.” They call it an orphanage, so we will stick with that.
A bit of back story
Last fall we were contacted by King’s Circle Assembly of God in Corvallis, Oregon. The church wanted to do something special for children in Africa during the upcoming Christmas season. We, in turn, approached the Togo Assemblies of God Children’s Ministries department and asked about ministries directly impacting orphans or vulnerable children. The national leaders directed us to La Solution Orphanage, just outside of Lomé, Togo.
We first visited La Solution in November. We toured their facility and asked questions about the services the facility provides, and we heard about their needs, and we passed that information along to King’s Circle.
King’s Circle then took an offering. A lot of consideration was given to how to use the gift to best help the ministry of La Solution. In collaboration with both the Togo Children’s Ministries Department and the donor church, it was decided that the best way to help the program was to provide a three-month supply of food to meet an immediate food shortage, and to designate the rest of the funds toward an animal husbandry project that will both provide meat for the children to eat and provide income for the other needs of the ministry. Meanwhile, the director of La Solution, Celestin Mawussi, knew nothing about the upcoming offering. The national leaders decided to keep it a surprise.
Once upon today, we went to visit an orphanage.
We pulled up this morning at a few minutes before 8 AM. Executives from the Togo National Children’s Ministries department pulled up in vehicles beside us. One of the vehicles was noticeably loaded, the wheel wells just inches from the tires.
The courtyard was quiet. The children were all next door at school, but Mawussi greeted everyone in typical African fashion, friendly and welcoming, but obviously not sure why we were there.
Pastor Renée Afangbedji, the children’s ministries treasurer, apologized for the unexpected visit and asked Mawussi if there were some people around who could help unload a few things from his car. If Mawussi hadn’t guessed by then that something was up, the amount of cameras recording video certainly gave it away.
Renée opened the back of his little SUV to reveal that it was laden with food. Jugs of cooking oil, boxes of canned tomatoes and macaroni noodles, and five 50-kg bags of rice were unloaded, hoisted onto the heads of young men jumping in to help. Mawussi was quiet- not reserved or ungrateful– but thoughtful, and contemplative. I wondered what he was thinking.
After the food was unloaded into his office, he invited us to come sit down. Introductions and social protocol completed, Pastor Koffi Evú, President of the Children’s Ministries department, began to explain. “The department believes in what you are doing to touch the lives of children. Our missionaries, when they saw your work, were truly touched. God has put it on the hearts of a church in the US to help meet some of your needs. We’ve brought some food, but in the interest of helping you move toward financial independence, we also have a financial gift- enough to develop the animal husbandry programs.”
I was filming, but I looked up to see that Mawussi’s eyes had filled with tears. He stood formally, and explained.
“I am lacking the words to say thank you . . . except to say that the Word of God is always true. Your visit is written in the Bible. One day Abraham received three angels without knowing they were angels. He showed them hospitality, and he fed them. He did not know why they were there. But when they had finished, they revealed that they were angels. They delivered a message of God’s promise- a promise that was fulfilled the following year when Sarah gave birth to a baby boy.
“In seventeen years, I have not had something like this happen to me. What you do not know is that this morning, there was nothing on the cooking fire for the children except beans. I was troubled because I knew that if I didn’t feed them, they would sleep during their class, but I had nothing but beans to give them. Our flour and our sugar are gone. I had no bread or beverages. So I gave them the beans and sent them to school. If you have ever had to tell a child that you have no food to give them, you know it is difficult.
“What you do not know is that this morning, there was nothing on the cooking fire for the children except beans.”
“But you have changed our situation. You have shown the love of God to these children. My faith was weak this morning, but those who believe in God are not disappointed.”
I have no ulterior motive for telling you this story. We are not raising funds for this project. In fact, the offering that was given was for the specific purpose of helping the project be financially self-supporting. I tell you this story today because sometimes we all need to be reminded that God still sees us. Whether your situation is as desperate as having nothing to eat but beans, or whether it isn’t quite that desperate, God still sees you.
Psalm 25:3 says “No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” We arrived with food on the very day they were out of food. Consider how much God planned in advance for this to happen. All of the preparation for this day, stretching back to last October and all of it came together just when Mawussi had reached the end of the food and the end of his ability.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”